• Sarah Miles

Eye-Catching Murals in Kingston: Jamaica's Creative Capital

It's hard to ignore the rapidly spreading mural culture that's been emerging across Kingston, Jamaica. Over the past few years, murals & street art have been popping up throughout the country's cultural hub transforming the city's previously bare concrete walls into a reflection of Jamaica's beloved artistic, creative and innovative culture.


Whether these works of art briefly impact you on your morning commute or are the perfect backdrop for an Instagram post, there are an array of murals to discover and fall in love with in the city!


Personally, my deep appreciation and interest in street art and mural culture ignited when I lived in Montréal, Canada. It seemed that no matter where I turned, there was a new art installation to indulge in or to brighten up an icy, cold winter day. This environment not only inspired me but made me feel more inclined to explore the city!


You see, murals are a vital part of Montréal's culture- they even have festivals dedicated to celebrating them and giving artists a platform to display their art to the public, such as 'Under Pressure' and 'Mural Festival'. Many of the murals are actually sanctioned by the city itself in hopes of Montréal becoming an "Open-Air Museum"...and it has worked! Some visitors plan trips to the city solely for the purpose of discovering new murals or attending these festivals, and this is definitely a direction that Kingston should be heading in.

Upon reflection, I realised that this culture actually isn't uncommon to our island and capital city. Street art has been a significant part of Jamaican culture and is simply another form in which it manifests. Unfortunately, it just hasn't always been deemed as palatable, acceptable or aesthetically pleasing enough. It's important to recognize that this isn't as recent of a phenomenon as it may seem. This time it's just being invested in and popularised.


In December 2019, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport partnered with the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation for the 'Jamaica Creative: Paint Up Yuh Creative Space' mural project. The aim of this project was to utilize art to attract visitors to the city, boost community tourism and beautify the city. I love the idea of communities transforming into living art and it's hard not to be attracted to the atmosphere that these murals have been setting in the city's air.


When you have a chance, make sure to stop every once in a while and take in these stunning works of art. Nowadays, I feel like I stumble upon a new mural everyday! While there's too many to count, please enjoy some of my favourite mural & street art hotspots and hidden gems to visit in Kingston, Jamaica's creative capital.

 
DOWNTOWN KINGSTON

It's only right to kick off a blog post surrounding Kingston's mural and street art culture by highlighting Downtown Kingston. Fittingly coined as Kingston's art district, I think it's safe to say that Downtown is currently one of the- if not the- biggest hotspots of street art in the city.


When thinking of street art in Downtown, there's one spot that comes to mind for many locals: 41 Fleet Street. This project pioneered by Paint Jamaica and Life Yard is one of my earliest memories of the emergence of this so-called budding culture. It was the first time I remember suggesting to a friend 'we should check out this mural'. Since then it has undoubtedly become Jamaica's primary and most well-known street art landmark.

41 Fleet Street is a space that you want to visit because of its roots and impact on its community. A 100% community-based project, the murals painted by volunteers reflect many of the resident's aspirations and experiences while combating negative stigmas attached to Kingston's inner city. Through Life Yard's restaurant and communal space, sustainable farming is promoted and arts & crafts are facilitated for members of the community- many of which you may see playing a match of football in the previously abandoned warehouse.


While street art is generally dispersed across Downtown, there are a few popular streets and areas well-known for their artwork. One of my go-to streets that I tend to gravitate towards is Water Lane. It's the perfect area to visit to fully immerse yourself in this artistic experience. On Sundays, it's usually quieter compared to the busy work week and you'll often have the place to yourself...you may even buck up a few photo or video shoots in progress.

When visiting Water Lane, the perfect place to start is the F&B Parking Lot. This deteriorated building has been repurposed into a parking lot and artistic hub. This space is well-known to many as the home of Kingston Creative's art walks, which are now hosted in a 360° virtual experience due to COVID-19, and may look a bit familiar from many music videos, including Protoje's 'Like Royalty'.


When you exit this parking lot, you are literally stepping out into the heart of Water Lane. From here you can stroll the neighbouring streets, lanes and alleys- some of which are even barred off from traffic- filled with vibrant murals and street art conceptualized and brought to life by local artists and brands.

These murals truly add so much character to the already personable Downtown and there is so much potential for tourism in this historic city. Whenever I visit , I feel like I always discover a new art piece- whether it's a recent addition or one that hadn't previously caught my eye. If you're visiting Kingston for the first time or are a local who wants to explore your own city more, going on an 'Art Walk' Downtown is an experience that you simply can't miss out on!


SABINA PARK MURAL by Irving Cano Gomez: Camp Road

On your way to or from Downtown, you may spot a new pop of colour adorning Sabina Park's walls. This vibrant mural is one of the more recent works of art that has emerged in the city by Irving Cano Comez. I love his distinct mural style, and was thrilled to recently spot another one of his works going up on the silo of the Carib Cement Company on the Kingston Harbour.


As part of the 'Jamaica 60' legacy project, this mural at Sabina Park celebrates our nation's heritage in cricket and many of the sport's local icons. It has been so exciting to see this mural go up and develop in real time! Sabina Park is a historical landmark and is the stomping grounds of many greats- including soca revellers on Carnival Wednesday. I truly hope that this revitalization of its exterior opens new opportunities for us to reimagine the cultural sites we usually pass by on a regular day as tourist attractions.


RAGAMUFFIN HOSTEL & COFFEE BAR: 74 Lady Musgrave Road

Ragamuffin is a spot in the city adored by many locals for good reason. This hostel and cafe is the perfect place to unwind, get some work done, and enjoy a delicious drink in a creative and inspiring environment. This location is hard to miss; identifiable by its iconic blue and yellow mural on its exterior. This eye-catching mural has become almost synonymous with its brand, effectively drawing you in to explore the multiple other murals inside.

Their property is undoubtedly a celebration of art with new murals to discover around every corner. While many locals associate Ragamuffin with its coffee bar, I love that tourists staying at their hostel will be immediately immersed into a space that reflects Kingston's character and vibrant culture through the art pieces on their walls.


PEPSI "JAMA-I-CAN" MURAL by Nick 'NuWarhol' Anglin: Hope Road

One of my favourite murals on my daily commute is located on the corner of Hope Road and Donhead Avenue by Nick 'NuWarhol' Anglin. When sitting at the stoplight, it's hard not to admire this mural; it's one of the many that debuted across the city as part of Pepsi Jamaica's "Jama-I-Can" youth empowerment campaign. Not only do I love its message but the feeling it conveys. It's a positive affirmation to remember throughout my journey- one that a lot of us need to be reminded of.


Similar to Ragamuffin's blue and yellow wall, it shows how brands can utilize this emerging mural culture as part of their identity, whether intentionally or not. Pepsi's "Jama-I-can" campaign does this well- from their murals to their social media content and merchandising. It doesn't feel forced and feels authentically Jamaican despite it being an international brand.


CHILITOS JAMEXICAN: 88 Hope Road

Chilitos is a beloved Jamaican-Mexican restaurant located in the heart of the city with an unbeatable ambiance. While there are many factors that contribute to this, including their electrifying atmosphere, delicious food and mouth-watering drinks (if you know, you know), their love and celebration of art stands out. From their bar to their walls, they are home to a selection of stunning murals that truly encapsulate this blend between the two nations' cultures.

Personally, my favourite mural at Chilitos has to be their portrait of the iconic Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. It's impossible to miss this captivating piece located at the restaurant's entrance. It's only fitting for this space as Kahlo, famous for her collection of self-portraits, is one of Mexico's most well-known artists. This Jamaican rendition celebrates this while adding its own flair truly native to the artist's, Charl Baker, style of work.


KAYA HERB HOUSE: 82 Lady Musgrave Road

Kaya Herb House is the ultimate chill spot with an abundance of personality and life. Among their many cool finds, including their must-see vintage abandoned plane, they have a variety of colourful murals to check out on property. These murals create an inspiring, relaxing and welcoming atmosphere whether you're stopping by for a top up or to enjoy one of their signature pizzas.

As Jamaica's first legal medicinal dispensary, it's only right that Kaya is a space in which murals can occupy and embody Jamaica's rich culture. Both murals and marijuana have been previously criticized and even criminalized despite having significant cultural value and economic potential. Murals have the ability to become a cultural product that goes hand-in-hand with our city's identity, similar to how marijuana is synonymous to our island’s identity in the eyes of many of our international visitors.


BOB MARLEY MUSEUM: 56 Hope Road

A must-visit spot in the city for both dry-land and foreign tourists is the Bob Marley Museum. Located at his home on Hope Road, one can dive into the reggae icon's legacy and feel the rich history in the bones of the house and through his personal treasures. Even as a local, I feel like I gained so much knowledge from this enjoyable tour and was very thrilled to see the variety of expressive murals located across the property.

From portraits of family members to reggae icons and even Jamaica's national hero (and my birthday twin), Marcus Garvey, these murals are the perfect addition to this cultural experience. Similar to reggae music, murals are simply another means in which our island's creativity can be represented. It is also a medium in which this pioneer of reggae music has been immortalized across the world. Don't believe me? Go ahead and Google 'Bob Marley murals'.

 

It's safe to say that this rapidly growing culture is literally transforming Kingston before our eyes. These works of art breathe life into the city and are opening doors and creating opportunities for the country's creative capital and Jamaican artists. I look forward to more murals flourishing across the city.


LOCAL MURALISTS TO CHECK OUT

Make sure to show some love to these incredible local artists and muralists and feel free to comment more that myself and other readers can check out!


Becky Levy | @rebeccamlevy

» Some of Becky's murals can be spotted Downtown, at Ragamuffin, Silver Sands, the Kingston Creative Hub and more. My personal favourite is her eye-catching 'Free Your Mind' piece on Windward Road.


Charl Baker | @charlb_art

» Some of Charl's murals can be found Downtown, at Chilito's Jamexican, Bob Marley Museum and more.


Fiona Godfrey | @fionagodfreyart

» Some of Fiona's murals can be spotted at Starbucks (Liguanea), Cafe Blue (Constant Spring) and more.


Joshua Solas | @solasink

» Some of Joshua's murals can be found Downtown, at Main Street Jamaica (Montego Bay) and more.


Jude 'Jude Rude' Issa | @juderude

» Some of Jude's murals can be found at Main Street Jamaica (Montego Bay), Kaya Herb House (Kingston and Ocho Rios) and more.


Suzanna Missenberger | @_movingspirit

» Some of Suzanna's murals can be spotted at Bookophilia, Gypsy House Tapas, Ragamuffin and more.


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